If you read my last post, you can tell that I don’t have a lot of planning time for my 5 different classes a day. Most rural teachers are in the same situation. In this post I’ll share some of the techniques I’ve used to be able to plan appropriate, fun, engaging, and effective lessons, in about 10 minutes per class per day. I will never say that every lesson I teach is perfect, as sometimes I’m scrambling just to have a plan. However, I really try my hardest!
Tip 1: Be Organized
If you talk to my students and colleagues, they might say that my desk is full of papers, cluttered, disheveled even. However, it truly is organized, just in my own way! Most of my organization happens digitally. I plan lessons on my computer instead of a plan book. This makes it really easy to make adjustments, which is almost always necessary. To do this, I use Google Docs. I created a spreadsheet online so that I have access to my lesson plans on any device that can connect to the internet. I love this, because I don’t have to worry about bringing my computer or plan book home if I need to do some planning over the weekend. Additionally, Google Docs can be easily shared through e-mail. When my Special Education coordinator asked for a copy of my lesson plans, I just shared the spreadsheet with her. Then, if I make changes, they can instantly see them.
Here is a screenshot of my lesson planning spreadsheet:
You can’t see Thursday and Friday, as they got pushed below the screen, but you get the idea! Some days I have more written down, some less. My first year I had a lot more, as I needed more information to make sure I fulfilled all the objectives of my day. Now, I don’t need as much information, as I have taught each unit before, and I can remember what I did in the past. If I have a new lesson, I might write a lot more!
Additionally, when you teach 5 different classes, you have a lot of papers to copy, grade, file, etc. I use multiple sets of stacking trays to keep all that organized. When students have papers to turn in, they go in the proper tray. That way, they are sorted and organized until I get the chance to go through them and get them put in the grade book. When I make copies for use in class, they go in the tray. When I have left-over copies (always a good idea for the kids that might loose their first copy!), I put them in the tray. It keeps me from having more piles on my desk, as I have enough already! I also used the following websites for their great ideas!
Tip 2: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Ok, I know its a bit cliche, but its true! If someone created a great lesson, don’t be afraid to steal it (while always giving proper citation)! Sometimes, you will have to alter it to make it fit your classroom, students, and schedule, but at least you have a start! There are so many great organizations out there that have worked to created lesson plans just for you to use in your classroom. In my first two years, I found so many great websites that my bookmarks list was crazy long. I would find myself bookmarking something then forgetting about it until 2 months after it was useful. One way I have found to organize my websites more efficiently is Pinterest. My Pinterest page is a combination of personal and professional pins, but I have many, many of my favorite lesson ideas pinned on there. Also, it is a great place to find new ideas.
Tip 3: Don’t Get Stuck
It may seem like the easiest way to plan quickly would be to follow the same systematic approach to each class: bell work, correct yesterday’s assignment, lecture for 10-20 minutes, practice, give tomorrow’s assignment, repeat. This might work for a few days a week, but if you do it every day, you and your students will get bored quickly! It is always a good idea to mix-up the way material is presented in order to decrease your chances of burn-out. When you have only 10 minutes per class, you might not always have time to try-out each lesson on your own before using it in the classroom. However, if we try to get our students to take risks, not be afraid of failure, and just go for it, we need to do the same! Some lessons may end up being a huge flop. If that happens, you just learned a great lesson on how NOT to teach that content. I bought into the idea of taking risks and not being afraid of failure this summer. I can say that the best book I’ve read throughout my teaching career is Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. It really made me think about trying new things and breaking out of my comfort zone. Check out Dave’s website for more information about the book.
Do any other rural educators have tips on creating great lessons in limited time-frames? Please share your tips in the comments!